Team Preparing For FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The 2012 USA Basketball Women’s U18 National Team will reconvene for training camp Aug. 4-11 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC). Tennessee freshman forward/center and former Clarksville High standout Bashaara Graves will be on the 12-player roster that will make its final preparations for the upcoming FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Women in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Following its camp at the USOTC, the team will depart for San Juan on Aug. 12 for the tournament, which will take place Aug. 15-19. The USA has been placed in preliminary round Group A and will open play against the Dominican Republic on Aug. 15. The USA will play Argentina on Aug. 16 and then face Colombia on Aug. 17 to wrap up preliminary pool play. The top two teams from each preliminary round group will be seeded and advance to the medal semifinals on Aug. 18. Winners of the semifinals will compete in the gold medal game to be played on Aug. 19.
“We have a heck of a lot of work to do in a very short time,” said USA Head Coach Katie Meier. “Number one, we must establish our identity and chemistry. This is a special group of women, and I know they will play extremely hard for each other. They truly enjoy each other and they also really push each other in practice. I can’t wait to compete.”
Graves was named to the team on May 21. One week after the team was announced and players returned home to their respective cities, the squad reassembled in Orlando, Fla., for five days of training that culminated with a 97-36 exhibition win over Brazil on May 31 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resorts. Graves tallied 14 points, six boards and an assist in 21 minutes of action during that victory.
The UT newcomer said her performance in the exhibition contest provided her with some very positive reinforcement.
“I’m a rebounding-first kind of player,” Graves said. “Most of my points came from rebounds, so that helped my confidence a lot. Getting the amount of playing time I did also was a confidence booster. That really helps me as we head into the upcoming training session.”
Graves, who enrolled at UT for the second summer session, took advantage of the Lady Vol facilities to work on her conditioning and facets of her game in preparation for the USA training session and FIBA tournament.
“I’ve worked a lot on my conditioning, because when we train in Colorado, the altitude is going to be a challenge,” Graves said. “I’ve been working on getting my jumper better than it was in high school. It has improved a lot. I’ve been working on my transition defense, too.”
A veteran of USA Basketball, Graves was a member of the 2010 USA U17 World Championship Team that captured the gold medal with a perfect 8-0 mark at the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship. In 2009, Graves was on the USA U16 National Team that won the gold medal and earned the USA’s berth to the 2010 U17 Worlds.
Graves said she is excited about the opportunity to represent the USA once again and just do what she enjoys.
“I look forward to playing for my country and playing with some of the best players in the country like I do here,” Graves said. “Also, I look forward to the experience of going to Puerto Rico and having fun playing basketball and doing what I love to do.”
WORTH NOTING: The USA women are the reigning FIBA Americas U18 champion after going 5-0 to win gold in 2010…Former Lady Vol player and assistant and current LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell serves as one of the U18 squad’s assistant coaches…Former Lady Vol player Jill Rankin Schneider is head coach of the USA Basketball U17 squad that will play in the 2012 FIBA World Championship for Women in Amsterdam…She led the USA to gold in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
Reuters — Left-hander Paul Maholm started collecting Tom Glavine baseball cards when he was seven years old, and he’s thinking he might have them autographed now that he’ll be seeing Glavine, who’s part of the Braves’ broadcasting team.
He thinks it’ll be “cool” to play with third baseman Chipper Jones in his final season.
He wants to pick right-hander Tim Hudson’s brain; he’s not a strikeout pitcher, either.
He’s looking forward to jelling with his new teammates, some of whom are former teammates with the Pirates: infielder-outfielder Eric Hinske, shortstop Jack Wilson, outfielder Matt Diaz and catcher David Ross.
And he came over with outfielder Reed Johnson in Monday’s deal with the Cubs. But not before teasing the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster in the Wrigley Field dugout, saying, “Well, you said no so I guess they wanted somebody!”
Maholm got to the Braves’ clubhouse not long before it opened Wednesday, showered, then headed to the field to take part in batting practice. After that came a bullpen session with pitching coach Roger McDowell.
Maholm, 30, has the confidence to tell McDowell to say something if he sees something, but he stuck to his normal routine. While he’s getting those Glavine autographs, though, one assumes the topic of pitching will come up.
His recent success he attributes to getting ahead of hitters and being able to throw all of his pitches for strikes. He’ll get his first start with the Braves on Saturday versus the Astros, a team he’s faced a lot while in the National League Central with the Pirates and Cubs. Hudson will be the starting pitcher against the Astros on Friday, so Maholm should get a lot of useful feedback.
Wednesday, right-hander Ben Sheets, the other veteran pitcher general manager Frank Wren added, gave up three runs in the first inning of the 4-2 loss to the Marlins after having allowed only one run over his three previous starts combined.
–RHP Ben Sheets, who had allowed only one run in his first three starts for the Braves, gave up three runs in the first inning to the Marlins in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss. “The first inning was the game,” Sheets said. But he was encouraged that he pitched into the seventh inning.
–C David Ross got the start Wednesday, partly because he’s a right-handed bat and the Marlins were starting LHP Wade LeBlanc, but mostly because Tuesday night was a long night of catching for C Brian McCann, what with the nearly two-hour rain delay.
–LHP Paul Maholm reported to the Braves in time for batting practice, then threw a bullpen session with pitching coach Roger McDowell. In his meeting with reporters afterward, he said he’d started collecting Tom Glavine’s baseball cards when he was seven years old and might just try to have them signed.
–OF Reed Johnson, acquired late Monday from the Cubs, made his Braves debut Wednesday, leading off and playing right field, and went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .306. Manager Fredi Gonzalez used the opportunity of facing a left-handed starting pitcher to give left-handed hitting CF Michael Bourn a day off. RF Jason Heyward started in center.
–RHP Jair Jurrjens was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of groin strain, opening the roster spot for LHP Paul Maholm, who was acquired from the Cubs late Monday.
BY THE NUMBERS: .727 — INF Juan Francisco’s average in his last three starts. He’s 8-for-11.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “He’s on every pitch. You get him in these advance meetings, he knows all the pitchers.” — Manager Fredi Gonzalez on CF Michael Bourn.
–RHP Jair Jurrjens (strained groin) was placed on the disabled list Aug. 1.
–RHP Tommy Hanson (lower back strain) was placed on the disabled list July 31.
–OF Matt Diaz (bruised right thumb) went on the 15-day disabled list July 21. He had his arm placed in a cast July 28 to promote healing in the thumb.
–INF Jack Wilson (dislocated right little finger) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 14. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Gwinnett on July 23.
–SS Andrelton Simmons (broken right little finger) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 9. He will be out until at least mid-August.
–RHP Peter Moylan (right shoulder surgery in October 2011) threw his first bullpen session May 23. He began pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League on June 30, then moved up to Class A Rome on July 13 and to Class AA Mississippi on July 24. He went on Class AAA Gwinnett’s disabled list in late July due to right shoulder tendinitis.
–RHP Arodys Vizcaino (Tommy John surgery in March 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He is expected to miss the entire season.
–RHP Brandon Beachy (sore right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list June 17. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery June 21.
–LHP Robert Fish (left elbow tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26.
The word is Jake Locker will be the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.
If you’ve listen to ‘From the Sideline’, heard daily on WJZM and live streamed at WJZM.com from 3 to 6 p.m. with me and the illustrious Sarge, AKA, Chris Austin, you’ve heard me say that I thought Jake Locker was going to win the quarterback battle over Matt Hasselbeck.
The thinking about that is simple: Jake Locker is the 1st round pick, the 8th selection, entering his second year (and didn’t play too badly in the two games he played thanks to Hasselbeck’s injury) and Hasselbeck is 36 years old and a 14-year pro.
But I’m not the only one! There’s a new report out by the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi that says my convoluted thinking just maybe right on.
“NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi said he’s learned Jake Locker is the favorite for the Tennessee Titans‘ starting quarterback job on “Inside Training Camp Live” on Tuesday. We’re out on the left coast this week and caught Lombardi in the hall after his segment.
Despite Matt Hasselbeck‘s solid performance last regular season, Locker’s explosive skill set can’t be denied. The hope and expectation inside the Titans’ building is that Locker will take the job. The second-year pro is the man the Titans want leading the team, even with a difficult early schedule.”
There’s few things we know about the NFL is it’s a young man’s league and loyalty doesn’t run deep.
And let’s be honest, there weren’t many who though Hasselbeck was going to play like he did last year, throw for 3,571 yards, 18 touchdowns and ultimately lead the Titans to a 9-7 record. It’s just that he lost the one big game the Titans didn’t need to lose in Week 14 against the lowly 2-14 and 1st-pick selecting Indianapolis Colts and that may be the linger effect that lead to Locker taking the reigns.
That and when you’re a second year coach like Mike Munchak, you’ve got to go with the guy you took with a top-10 pick over the guy that was just supposed to hold onto the spot anyway.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Matt Hasselbeck equated the exploration the Titans are doing on offense as a golfer trying out “different clubs in your bag.”
The Titans have been evaluating players as much as possible by rotating who is with the first team, second team and beyond. It’s a structure designed to compare Hasselbeck and Jake Locker for the starting quarterback job, to evaluate receivers and to prepare for scenarios that are less than ideal but can occur in a 16-game season.
“In a perfect world, you’d love to have your three or four receivers, your one or two tight ends, but that’s just not the nature of the game,” Hasselbeck said. “It actually turned out to be sort of a good thing. Even last year, we rotated through as much as we could, and (when) Kenny (Britt) went down, it wasn’t the first time that I had ever thrown to Damian Williams or the first time I had thrown to (Lavelle Hawkins) or Marc (Mariani). I think it’s probably healthy for the team. Coach (Mike) Munchak has even said to me multiple times that when he was coaching o-line he liked throwing different guys in there as they go, so if you ever do lose a guy, everything doesn’t fall apart. I think it’s probably a good thing practicing in a real-life, season situation where a guy has to step in and it’s not a big deal.”
The movement is a current strategy to gather as much information as possible even if it temporarily sacrifices offensive rhythm.
“Part of training camp right now is we’re trying out some new concepts, trying out some new people,” Hasselbeck said. “We’re not trying to win games right now.”
Hasselbeck said he Locker and the other quarterbacks are also more likely to attempt tougher throws that they would likely check down from during a real game. He cited second-year cornerback Tommie Campbell as an example of coverage that would direct a pass elsewhere.
“There’s sometimes where you may not take the matchup right now, but we’ll see if it’s an opportunity to let guys show what they can do and take a shot,” Hasselbeck said. “If it’s a one-on-one with a receiver against Tommie Campbell, man coverage, press, you would never want to take that in real life, but we’ll take it and make Tommie prove that he’s as good as we think and we’ll give our guy that we say can’t win, we’ll give him a chance.”
Campbell, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 and played primarily on special teams as a rookie, has had a solid offseason in which he’s moved up the depth chart to likely play cornerback with Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner when the Titans are in the nickel defense.
McCourty said the rotation of players on offense will help the defense as well because it creates different matchups.
“That’s usually where practice goes, especially throughout training camp. Guys are competing for position, so you’re getting a certain level of rotation,” McCourty said. “I think it’s good for us cause each week you’re going to be playing somebody new, so one play I may be lined up against Nate (Washington) and the next against Damian, Kendall (Wright) or so on. You’re getting a different dynamic from each receiver.”
SUDDENLY THIN AT CENTER
Eugene Amano left Thursday’s practice after suffering a triceps injury, and Kevin Matthews was held out because of concussion-like symptoms. Munchak didn’t have an opportunity to receive an update on Amano before his media session, but said he thinks the injury occurred when Amano’s arm was hit by a helmet. Munchak said Amano is likely to undergo an MRI.
Munchak said Matthews hadn’t suffered a noticeable hit, but the symptoms could have stemmed from multiple minor hits.
“We thought maybe it was tied in with the weather,” Munchak said. “So, we are just being careful with him, making sure he is OK before he practices again.”
Amano started all 16 games at center for the Titans in 2011, and Matthews had been doing most of the work with the first or second team in rotations.
The injuries created more snaps for third-year pro Fernando Velasco and were further complicated by the recent retirement of third-year pro Jon Cooper, who decided to end his playing career to coach at Oklahoma.
“We are planning on doing a lot at center today and this whole week because of Kevin Matthews not repping today,” Munchak said. “Unfortunately, with Eugene Amano getting hurt, he got moved up real quick. So, he’ll continue to do that and we’ll see how everybody is, our health, and we’ll go from there.”
WHEELS KEEP MOVING
When Hasselbeck, a 14-year NFL veteran who will turn 37 in September, was asked about his foot speed compared to Locker, a 24-year-old second-year pro, he asked about the distance and joked that he might have a chance if they ran 5 miles.
Hasselbeck added there are merits of a quarterback being able to move around, generally citing a statistic he saw where scoring percentage increases on possessions during which the quarterback has even a modest gain on a scramble or designed run. He showed his mobility and savvy during Thursday night’s practice at Baptist Sports Park. He saw all passing options covered on one play and tucked and ran for what would have been a sizeable gain, and he later rolled down field to block a defender near the end zone after making a handoff.
Locker recently said Hasselbeck’s mobility is often underappreciated.
“I think he’s good with those naked (bootlegs), change-of-direction things,” Locker said. “He throws really well on the run. I think it’s a negative perception that he gets wrongfully because he’s really good at it and does a good job with it.”
WRIGHT IN RED
Titans fans had their first opportunity to see first-round draft pick Kendall Wright in action Thursday night, even though his participation was limited.
Wright arrived at training camp Wednesday and must abide by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement that restrict activity in a player’s first three days of camp. Wright was not allowed to wear shoulder pads or participate in full-contact drills.
The Titans took it a step further by having the receiver wear a red no-contact jersey during individual drills. Wright will be limited the same way during Friday’s open practice, which is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. at Baptist Sports Park. The restrictions will be lifted during Saturday’s closed practice at LP Field, though coaches will likely proceed deliberately to reduce any risk of injury.
“I think we are just being careful with him,” Munchak said. “We just want him running routes. We will do about as much as we can with him until Saturday. Like you saw, that’s why he had a red jersey on so guys knew, [and weren’t] not thinking and lose track of where he was, and bump into him. He practiced this morning and was able to do everything because we weren’t in shoulder pads. In the night practice and tomorrow afternoon, he will only be able to do individual drills and 7-on-7 until Saturday.”